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Biblical Relic is a Fraud

By VOA News

A carved ivory pomegranate that scholars once believed to be the only relic from the temple of King Solomon is a fake. Officials from the Israel Museum said examination of the pomegranate revealed that it is older than originally thought. Experts determined that it dates back to the Bronze period, long before the first Jewish Temple. The examination also revealed that a Hebrew inscription that led to the belief that the pomegranate was the head of a scepter carried by temple priests is a forgery of modern times. The museum bought the carving from an anonymous collector for more than $500,000. Officials said the pomegranate was authenticated before its purchase, and before the newer testing methods that led to the re-assessment.

Israelis Stranded in Indonesia Tragedy

By IsraelNationalNews.com & Ha'aretz

Hundreds of Israeli families were worrying and waiting Sunday night as the Foreign Ministry tried to track down more than 1,000 Israeli citizens touring in the devastated areas in Southeast Asia.

Several Israelis were injured, including some "seriously" on the island of Phuket near southern Thailand, according to the Foreign Ministry, and some have been hospitalized. About 13 others are on an island near India and have not made contact with authorities. India, Thailand and Indonesia are popular havens for young Israelis who frequently tour the area for several months after Army duty. Foreign Ministry ordered consular workers to try to overcome communications breakdowns to reach stranded or injured Israelis.

One Israeli tour guide on Phuket reported his group felt tremors from the huge tidal waves, which hit a different part of the island. He said they were stranded in the middle of the island, where the bridge to the mainland was destroyed. Their hotel was one of the few that were not severely damaged. The Foreign Ministry is trying to find means to rescue the group, as well as another one on a nearby island.

The death toll has reached at least 11,300 and has risen almost hourly since the first tidal waves, which registered 8.9 on the Richter scale as the world's most powerful earthquake in 40 years- rocked large parts of the region Sunday, triggering tidal waves and killing thousands of people. At least 4,422 people have died in Indonesia, 3,538 in Sri Lanka, 3,000 in India, and 310 in Thailand.

The quake, the strongest since a 9.2 magnitude temblor in Alaska in 1964 - struck around breakfast time off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, about 1,000 miles northwest of Jakarta, the capital, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was 6 miles deep, and was followed by a half-dozen powerful aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from almost 6 to 7.3. The quake occurred at a place where several huge geological plates push against each other with massive force. The survey said a 620-mile section along the boundary of the plates shifted, motion that triggered the sudden displacement of a huge volume of water. The reverberations sent waves as high as 20 feet thundering into the coasts of six countries, sweeping away tourists, fishermen, hotels, homes and cars.

"We initially thought it was a terrorist attack, then the wave came and we just kept running upstairs to get on as high ground as we could," Gerrard Donnelly, a British tourist, staying at a resort in Phuket, Thailand, told Sky News.


Israeli Cabinet Adopts Measures to Support Palestinian Elections

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's cabinet adopted a series of measures Sunday, aimed at facilitating Palestinian elections on January 9. Their approval means Palestinians will be given far greater freedom of movement than they have known for the past four years. It also allows candidates limited campaigning in East Jerusalem, and orders the Israeli military to pull out of all Palestinian population centers in the final days before the vote.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called the cabinet approval greatly important. He said it is important to make it clear to the whole world that Israel allowed free, fair and efficient elections.

The cabinet decision to allow Palestinian political activity in Jerusalem has limits. Candidates will be allowed to hang posters and distribute campaign literature, but rallies in public places will not be permitted. Palestinians will be allowed to conduct a survey in East Jerusalem to determine who is eligible to vote, but only those Palestinians with West Bank residency will be allowed to register. Israel adopted similar policies during the last Palestinian presidential election in 1996.

Israel and the Palestinians both want Jerusalem as their capital. Resolving those competing claims is one of the greatest obstacles to a peace agreement.

Prominent Palestinian figures appealed on Sunday for an end to violence, adding weight to the election campaign of moderate Mahmoud Abbas to succeed Yasir Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas, a former Palestinian prime minister, launched his campaign on Saturday, promising to pursue a peace agreement with Israel and the eventual creation of a Palestinian state. In a speech Sunday, he said it is unacceptable to use arms to achieve Palestinian independence.

The remarks to a group of some 200 Palestinian businessmen seemed more conciliatory in tone than remarks he made Saturday, in which he said he would not take up arms against Palestinian militants to get them to stop violence against Israel. He said he would try to convince militants to end violence, but by agreement, rather than by confronting, or arresting them as was done in 1996. Israel has signaled their intention to work with Abbas, a man they see as a moderate.


Small Israeli Settlement in Gaza Agrees to Voluntary Evacuation

By VOA News

Israel says residents of a small Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip have agreed to relocate to Israel, rather than resist the planned removal of all settlers from the occupied territory next year. The official in charge of the Israeli government plan to evacuate all 8,000 Gaza settlers next year says 25 families in the Pe'at Sadeh settlement will voluntarily move together to southern Israel in March.

The settlement would be the first to be dismantled under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's evacuation plan, which has drawn calls for resistance from the top settler council. The Sharon government has offered cash incentives for Gaza settlers willing to leave before the withdrawal, which is scheduled to begin in about eight months.


IDF Student Cadet Expelled for Political Views

By IsraelNationalNews.com

A young cadet in the IDF Officers Training School has been expelled from the school because he said he would not fulfill orders, if given, to destroy Jewish communities.

The soldier was taking part in a class on democratic ideals and refusal. The issue arose during discussion about last year's "Pilots' Letter," in which a group of Israel Air Force pilots wrote that they would refuse to drop bombs on residential areas used by terrorists to hide. During the course of the class, the commander said that the army would not tolerate refusal under any circumstances, and that he himself would volunteer to evacuate Jewish communities in Yesha.

The soldier in question - a resident of Karnei Shomron in northwestern Samaria who serves in the Engineering Corps - was unable to remain silent, and said that there was no room for comparison between the two issues. He made it clear that he would refuse an order to take part in demolishing Jewish communities.

The soldier's father told Yediot Achronot, "My son said that the refusal of the pilots, who in the middle of a war announced that they would not fight, is not the same as ideological refusal to expel citizens from their homes and destroy Jewish communities in the Land of Israel. He said that the evacuation of communities is a badge of shame for the country, and that the comparison to the pilots who refused is inflammatory."

Col. Gal Hirsch, commander of the Officers School, in consultation with other officers, spoke with the soldier, who repeated his claims and said that the disengagement plan "stands in opposition to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence." Hirsch then removed him from the course, for reasons of "unsuitability" and "unbecoming behavior."

The soldier's father, Vitaly Vovnoboy, who made aliyah from one of the former Soviet Union countries in the late 1980s, told Army Radio that he is proud of his son. "An order to evacuate communities is a blatantly illegal order, which no one is allowed to fulfill. If they tell the soldiers to conquer the Knesset, would they be expected to fulfill that order?" He added that when he was in the Diaspora, "I dreamt for a long time that my son would serve in the Israel Defense Forces." The father also said, "I taught him that the IDF is a humanitarian, strong, and thinking army. But now he sees that the army... creates a situation in which soldiers and officers are afraid to sound their views and to ask questions. This is the true danger, not my son."

Hirsch, in February of this year, also removed a cadet from an officers' course after he expressed harsh criticism of then Chief of Staff Sha'ul Mofaz, now the Defense Minister. The would-be officer criticized Mofaz for the way he handled the October 2000 incident at Joseph's Tomb - in which soldier Madhat Yusuf bled to death while the army waited for PA forces to allow Israel to rescue him.

Likud Knesset member Ayoub Kara, who led an unsuccessful public campaign at the time to have the student reinstated, spoke with Arutz-7 about Hirsch's apparent tendency to oust students because of their political views, He said, "It's a terrible thing for an army to do. In this [latest] case, the student is not refusing orders, but merely expressed his view about what he would do if and when he faces the situation. To oust a student from the course because of his views?"


ADL Head Tells Knesset to "Play Down" Aliyah

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Abe Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, has told Israeli government officials that Israel should hesitate before "inviting" Jews of the Diaspora to immigrate.

"Say, 'Yes, we want all Jews,' but don't pronounce and don't invite them in times of crisis because it undermines their safety," Foxman told the Knesset committee on Immigration and Absorption. "If there is one decision that impacts on the safety and security which is counterproductive to what Israel is all about, it is when it comes to this issue."

Foxman was referring to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's statements this past summer to the French Jewish community to escape anti-Semitic attacks there and move to Israel. Sharon has long promoted plans to bring one million Jews to Israel over the next 10-15 years, including hundreds of thousands from the United States.

Foxman recently lambasted an American radio broadcaster's comment about Israel to a Jewish caller, saying the remark was anti-Semitic. The listener had complained that he was offended by Christian attempts to convert him, and the broadcaster told him that America was a Christian country by majority, and concluded, "You gotta go to Israel."

Groups such as Nefesh b'Nefesh, an organization assisting aliyah from North America, as well as the grassroots Kumah movement, have been actively encouraging mass immigration of Jews to Israel. More than 200 North American singles are scheduled to arrive in Israel this week on a Nefesh b'Nefesh flight.


Tnuva to Market Non-Kosher Meat

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Tnuva, Israel's largest agricultural marketer, has signed a sales agreement with a non-kosher meat company, Knesset Member Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) revealed Sunday.

The meat company, Tiv Taam, will keep its factory totally separate from Tnuva's meat plants, according to Tnuva, but Porush expressed fears that the deal would encourage other companies to process non-kosher meat. Tiv Taam operates in Bet Shean, south of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and is opening up a chain of non-kosher stores in the Tel Aviv area, Porush said.

The chain, slated to be one of the largest in the country, "is worrisome and is a red light for all of those who want to preserve the character of a Jewish country," Porush added. "Keeping the foundations of Jewish dietary laws (kashrut) is an historical contribution in the Jewish character," Porush wrote in a letter to Tnuva chief executive officer Arik Reichman. He also suggested that many consumers would stop buying any products from Tnuva.

Reichman caused a storm of protests two months ago when he labeled communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) a "cancer." Thousands of Israelis boycotted Tnuva's milk products until he admitted he should not have expressed his personal opinions in an offensive way, but he refused to apologize for his stand.

"It seems you have a tendency to provoke," Porush wrote Reichman." You barely got over Tnuva's awful announcement against Yesha residents and now you have chosen to sir up a fight, this time on kosher food in the country." He emphasized that an overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews keep Jewish dietary laws. Porush said it is questionable whether strict observers of dietary laws would continue to buy Tnuva's products.


Israel and the PA to Launch Joint Tourism Campaign

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Following a meeting between the Directors General of the Israeli and Palestinian Ministries of Tourism, Israel and the Palestinian Authority will spend $500,000 on a joint marketing campaign to attract tourists to the Holy Land.

Tourism Ministry Director-General Eli Cohen and PA tourism official Dr. Bajis Ismail agreed on the plan during their meeting the first week of December. The campaign will target Greece, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Symbols of both ministries will appear on advertisements promoting tourism to the Holy Land. Israeli Tourism Minister Gideon Ezra also met with Palestinian Tourism and Antiquities Minister Mitri Abu Aita near Bethlehem last week to discuss this and other joint ventures.

Thirteen thousand pilgrims, including 4,700 Israeli-Arab Christians visited Bethlehem during Christmas. In the first 11 months of 2004, 1,358,400 tourists entered Israel, 44 percent more than during the same period last year. Israel Tourism Ministry officials predict approximately 1.7 million visitors will arrive in 2005.


A Technical Gold Mine in the Israeli Desert

By ISRAEL21c.org

B.G. Negev Technologies and Applications Ltd., the commercial arm of Ben-Gurion University, is not only making the Negev bloom as envisioned by Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion. It's also putting the southern desert region on the international map as an important center of applied research.

One B.G. Negev project involves a BGU researcher who has succeeded in creating human monoclonal antibodies that can neutralize the highly contagious smallpox virus without inducing the dangerous side effects of the existing vaccine. Another BGN project will reduce the frequency of power supply disturbances that play havoc with consumer electronic devices.

These and other novel technologies discovered or invented at the university provide BGN with a broad range of products from fields as diverse as biotechnology, pharmaceutics, medical diagnostics and microelectronics. Much of the research and development at the University is performed within its interdisciplinary research centers, which include the Institutes for Applied Research, the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, the Ben-Gurion Research Center, the Institute for Applied Biosciences, and the new Center for Meso and Nanoscale Science and Technology.

"Our job is to serve as a link between industry and academic research," Dr. Ora Horovitz, Vice President of Business Development at BGN, told ISRAEL21c. Horovitz, a molecular biologist, was involved in product development for eight years before she took on the job of technology transfer.

"BGN helps university faculty 'translate' their inventions and academic achievements into commercially valuable products. We facilitate technology transfer to existing companies or create new startup companies."

A $3 million Biotech/Pharm Fund managed by BGN helps to transfer inventions and innovations from the lab to the marketplace. In the last three years, two of the 11 projects funded have already been commercialized and another three are under negotiation. BGN's ongoing business contacts include major Israeli and international companies Teva, Elop, Dead Sea Works, Ares Serono, GE, IBM, Intel, Motorola, Israel Military Industries, Compugen, Nur Macroprinters, Nice, Frutarom and Estee Lauder.

"The continuous flow of ideas and innovations from BGU's faculty and students provides BGN with a gold mine of new business opportunities," said Horovitz.

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